William Robert Young, 20 January 1979, Hungerford, Berkshire, England. This politics graduate shot to fame in 2002 as the winner of the UK entertainment programme, Pop Idol. Devised by pop mogul Simon Fuller, the man behind the Spice Girls, the series expanded on the highly successful Popstars format by offering a record contract to the winner of the televised talent contest. The contestants made their UK television debut in October 2001, with the vote eventually coming down to a choice between middle-class graduate Young, and the 17-year old A level student Gareth Gates. Despite seemingly overwhelming public support for the endearing Gates, Young triumphed on final night (9 February 2002) to become the official winner of Pop Idol.
Young racked up record-breaking advance orders of 1.2 million for his anaemic double a-side, Anything Is Possible/Evergreen. The single went straight to the top of the charts in March, but was overshadowed by even greater sales figures for Gates cover version of the Righteous Brothers classic Unchained Melody. Young returned to the top of the UK charts in June with a bland cover version of José Felicianos excellent and original interpretation of the Doors Light My Fire. He was also featured on the bestselling Pop Idol: The Big Band Album, on which the 10 finalists from the show performed cover versions of material from the Rat Pack era. Even worse was to follow in September, with the Young and Gates duo covering the Beatles The Long And Winding Road, backed with Elvis Presleys Suspicious Minds. The following month, Youngs debut album entered the UK album charts at number 1.
To his credit, Young refused to be put off by the poor critical reaction to his music and his busy touring schedule helped maintain his media profile. His hard work was rewarded in December 2003, when the single Leave Right Now (written by former Take Tha t star Gary Barlow) and second album Fridays Child both topped the UK charts. Young wrote or co-wrote most of the material on Fridays Child, and attracted begrudging praise from previously hostile critics for creating some excellent pop soul material, notably second single Your Game. The album sold extremely well and went some way to establishing Young as the natural successor to George Michael.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.